Prayers for Peace: Egypt's Deadliest Terror Attack

The death toll as of Saturday, November 25th for what officials are now referring to as Egypt’s deadliest terror attack in modern history has risen to 305, 27 of them being children. Another 128 people are wounded from the horrors that unfolded midday on Friday, November 24th, just as Friday prayers were concluding in the al-Rawdah mosque. Between 25 and 30 armed men arrived at the mosque wearing military fatigues and were armed with automatic machine guns and explosives. After one of the explosives was detonated outside of the mosque, worshippers were fired upon by the gunmen as they tried to flee. The attackers then entered the building, posting themselves in front of the mosque door and its twelve windows and firing upon the worshippers. Outside, they had lit seven cars on fire to block off access to the mosque by military or emergency responders. “No one got out of the mosque,” a witness at a nearby hospital said when interviewed by CNN.

When they were finally able to reach the wounded, emergency services were overwhelmed. The scene inside the mosque was gruesome, as bloodied victims lay in rows awaiting medical help. Over fifty ambulances went back and forth, carrying victims from the mosque to hospitals to receive aid. Some wounded were even taken to the hospital in the back of a local cattle truck. Many other local residents took it upon themselves to aid the relief efforts by purchasing medicine and instruments from pharmacies and taking them to the hospitals to use. Victims of the attack included not only Sufi worshippers, but construction workers, military conscripts, and many other innocent civilian groups as well.

Al-Rawdah, the Sufi-affiliated mosque where the attack took place, stands in Bir al-Abed, a town 130 miles (211 kilometers) from the capital of Cairo. The predominantly Sufi town had been largely peaceful up until this point, despite recent threats from the Islamic State (IS). While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the IS had been responsible for previous deadly attacks on the province, and at least one of the attackers that entered the mosque was said to be seen carrying an IS flag. The Islamic State also maintains a foothold north of the Sinai Peninsula where Bir al-Abed is located and continues to inspire local extremist groups, often called jihadists, who see violent struggle as necessary in their mission to purify their religion and restore God’s rule on earth. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam often the victim to these jihadist groups, who consider this particular branch of Islam to be a group of heretics that must be eradicated in order to defend the community against infidels.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the sixth president of Egypt, responded to the attack with brute force, sending out Egyptian warplanes for an airstrike on the fleeing off-road vehicles and various other terrorist outposts nearby - only hours after the attack occurred. The airstrikes destroyed the vehicles and killed the terrorists inside that were responsible for these heinous acts.

Despite recent attacks in Egypt on other religious groups, including Christian worshippers kneeling at church pews and pilgrims being gunned down in buses, the assault on the al-Rawdah mosque was unusually ruthless and a massacre of peaceful citizens just days before the celebration of the prophet Muhammad’s birthday. It is the first time worshippers in a mosque have been targeted in Sinai and in response, President el-Sisi declared three days of mourning in the state of Egypt.


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